Frequently Asked Questions

What is honour-based abuse, honour violence and honour crimes?

The concept of ‘honour’ is deemed to be extremely important for some people. To compromise a family’s ‘honour’ is to bring dishonour and shame and this can have severe consequences. The punishment for bringing dishonour can be emotional abuse, physical abuse, family disownment and in some cases even murder.

Victims of honour crimes are not determined by age, gender, sexuality or religion. In most honour-based abuse cases there are multiple perpetrators from the immediate family, sometimes the extended family and occasionally the community at large. Mothers, sisters, aunties and even grandmothers have been known to be involved in the conspiring of honour crimes.   

What is the difference between an arranged and forced marriage?

Arranged marriage: Both participants give their full consent and enter the marriage willingly.

Forced marriage:  One or both participants enter the marriage without giving their consent. They go through with the wedding under duress from their families.

Forcing someone into marriage is a criminal offence in the UK.

Arranged or forced: grey area

What starts out as an ‘arranged’ marriage can quickly escalate to a forced marriage. It is not uncommon for one of the participants to change their mind, even on the wedding day only for the families to force them to go through with it.

What are the main challenges?

Ensuring everyone in the country understands that culture, religion, and tradition is not an excuse, forced marriage is a criminal offence in the UK.

Raising awareness of Karma Nirvana’s victim support services within communities and places of worship so that victims understand we can help them.

Educating professionals particularly in the Police, Schools, NHS and Social Services to better understand honour-based abuse, forced marriage and best practice in dealing with it.

Does culture, religion or tradition justify this abuse?

To our knowledge, there is no scripture in any of the major religions that condone forced marriage. Under British law it is illegal.

Which communities does this abuse affect?

Honour crimes are most prevalent within diaspora communities from South Asia, the Middle East, and North and East Africa. Reports come from Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Orthodox Jewish and occasionally traveller communities. Honour Abuse is not determined by gender; both perpetrators and victims can be male or female.

What does Karma Nirvana mean?

Karma means ‘peace’, and Nirvana ‘enlightenment’. We hope all of our victims will achieve this through our work.

I don’t want to get married, but have nowhere to go?

There are housing services available for victims of Forced Marriage and Honour Abuse. These are safe environments where you can receive emotional and practical help, such as access to counselling. You can also be assisted in organising benefits and permanent housing. You will be encouraged to become independent, and to make your own decisions about your future. You will be provided with freedom, one of the most significant components in a happy and healthy life.

How can you guarantee my safety?

Whilst we cannot guarantee your safety, we can put you in contact with agencies whose job it is to protect you. Refuges can provide you with somewhere safe to stay if you choose to leave home. You can also be accommodated if you are a man or a couple. You should always call the police if you are in immediate danger.

If I think I might be forced into a marriage when I go abroad. What should I do?

If you are concerned that you will be forced into marriage when abroad, contact us. Once you leave the country, it is much harder to get help. However, there are some steps you can take to improve your situation when abroad. Take the address and contact details of a trusted friend and of the High Commission/Embassy in the country you are visiting. You should also take some money, both in sterling and in the local currency, along with a spare mobile phone. Photocopy your passport and tickets before you leave.

What happens if I am abroad and realise that I am being forced into a marriage?

You, or your trusted friend, should contact the nearest British Consulate, Embassy or High Commission. They will contact the FMU in the UK and arrange for assistance.

What happens if I’m abroad and manage to run away, but I don’t have enough money to fly home?

If you haven’t got the money, and you can’t borrow it from friend or relative, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office may, in some circumstances, be able to loan you the money for a ticket. Remember that you will have to pay this back when you get home.

How long will it take before I can come back to the UK, and where will I stay while arrangements are being made?

The Forced Marriage Unit will try and make arrangements for you to come back as soon as possible. However, if you do have to stay abroad for any length of time the British Embassy will assist you.

If I’m abroad, what will happen if I don’t have my passport?

Provided you are a British National, we can issue you with an emergency passport. If possible, take note of your passport numbers before you leave – this will be of great help.

I got married overseas. Is my marriage valid in the UK?

If your marriage is seen as valid in the country where it took place, it will often be valid in the UK. You must talk to a solicitor, whether you had a religious or civil marriage. Religious divorce is not valid in the UK.

My family are threatening me with violence if I don’t go through with the marriage.

Your personal safety is important. If you ever feel that you are in danger, you should contact the police immediately. The police will be able to assess your situation, advise you, and also refer you to support organisations. They will not tell your family that you have made contact with them.

Can I get legal protection to prevent a forced marriage?

Yes. Under the Forced Marriage Act 2007, you can apply to designated courts in England and Wales for a Forced Marriage Civil Protection Order. You can also ask someone to do so on your behalf. These orders can be used to prevent someone being forced into a marriage or to protect someone if a forced marriage has already taken place. A person may be arrested if they breach an order.

I was forced into a marriage overseas. Can my spouse be refused a visa to follow me here?

The Forced Marriage Unit may be able to help, however, you need to state publicly that you do not want your spouse to join you in the UK.

Are schools involved?

Schools are at the heart of prevention as forced marriage and honour-based abuse affect children as well as adults. During the summer holidays, there is a peak in male and female students going missing as they are often taken abroad for a forced marriage. Schools, therefore, play a crucial role in safeguarding students and helping to raise awareness as the absence of some students is not questioned and sometimes professionals regard this abuse as ‘cultural’ when no religion or culture condones this abuse.

We have a young person officer who goes into schools and educational establishments to help raise awareness amongst students and professionals so that they are aware that help and support are available and can support those who are at risk.

Does Karma Nirvana support men?

Yes, we support male and female victims experiencing forced marriage and honour-based abuse. We support individuals of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.

How many calls does the helpline receive?

On average, we receive 700-800 calls a month to our helpline. 40% of calls are from professionals.  There is an increase in the number of calls just before the school holidays, as this is when students are taken abroad to be married.